Saturday, August 20, 2011

Raising a daughter

Repost from earlier this year and a much needed reawakening.              

Raising a daughter is one of the most rewarding, life changing things you can ever do, but it is also one of the scariest. It goes beyond making sure she’s fed and has clothes and shelter. A young girl’s confidence and self-esteem are so fragile. Everything you say, do and show her tells her something about herself. And sometimes the message she gets isn’t the one you intended to give her.
I never had very much confidence or self-esteem myself when I was growing up. Perhaps this is in part why when I was nineteen I hooked up with a man nine years older than me. I was young, naive and insecure. I had no idea who I really was. Within a month of being together I was pregnant. I gave birth to my daughter when I was twenty. She was a huge shock to me. My tenseness and insecurity seemed to get passed on to her right from the beginning. She and I both spent many days crying our eyes out. I think the fact that I wasn’t comfortable with myself told my infant daughter that I wasn’t comfortable with her and was the breeding ground for her own insecurities to start building. So before she had even reached her first milestone, I had unintentionally taught her a lesson that she never should have learned.
The relationship between my baby and me didn’t seem to be getting any better over the years. I was still trying to find my place in the world, and even though her basic needs were met my patience didn’t always extend to playing with her as much as I should have. It was easier to tell her to go play with her toys or with her cousins then it was to actually sit on the floor and give her the one-on-one attention she needed and wanted from me. When I did try to devote more time and attention to her, her needs seemed to be unsationable. She couldn’t get enough attention. I dressed her in adorable clothes and fixed her hair pretty, showed her off at work on my days off, but to actually sit and listen to what seemed like non-stop rambling, was just too much. In this way I taught her that it was important to look pretty but that what she had to say wasn’t important to me. And if her thoughts weren’t important to her own mother, why should they be important to anybody else. Another lesson better left unlearned.
Then came the day that her father and I, who had been separated since she was seven months old, got back together. She was three and a half by this time and had never really known him. Even though he was older than I was he didn’t have much patience for her non-stop questions and stories either. He was a better playmate for her than I was since to him this was all new but his limits were quickly reached. Then she was sent off to her room to play. It wasn’t long before we got married and I became pregnant with a boy, which is what my husband had always wanted. I was learning to be more patient with my daughter, while her father seemed to get less patient. His lack of patience seemed to get worse the older our son got. Everything was about Daddy’s little buddy. The lesson here, her brother was more important than she was.
Now we have a third child, another daughter, who my husband lavishes attention on. Luckily, our first born seems to truly love her younger brother and sister even though her father treats them better than he does her. She and I still have times when we but heads, she still requires more time and patience then my other two children, but in a way we’re closer because of it.
My daughter’s insecurities were made painfully clear to me just last night. She had gotten in trouble for something she did at a friend’s house, which I handled just between me and her. Unfortunately, her father found out about it and she got in trouble again, even though I told him I had handled it. I went to her room to talk to her and what she had to say shocked me. She said that she wished her life could be different. No seven year old child should ever have to feel that way. She proceeded to tell me that she felt like she was always in trouble and that it didn’t matter how hard she tried to be good. She felt that her dad was always mad at her and saying mean things to her and that she didn’t feel like he loved her. I agree with her that he’s not as nice to her as he is to her siblings. I get on to him about it all the time, sometimes quietly sometimes with shouting and arguments. In the end he usually apologizes but it always ends up happening again. She forgives him because she wants his love and attention but you can tell by the look in her eyes that she knows it won’t be the last time. Even though I say something to him about his behavior I’m not actually doing anything to stop it from happening. This is teaching her that she’s not important and not as deserving of love and affection.
I love my daughter dearly, but the things she said to me last night made it very clear to me that I’m not doing my job as a mother. It’s my place to not only teach her, but protect and nurture her as well. Physically, she’s perfectly healthy and cared for, but emotionally she’s being neglected. I lost sight of what my job was, to help her build the confidence and self-esteem she needs to grow and function in this world. To give her the tools she needs to find her place in this world. Raising a daughter is very rewarding but it’s a huge responsibility too. Never again will I forget how fragile and insecure they can be.

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  1. An honest post. That said, no mum is perfect and feeling guilty is part of the job. I would know, I have 2 daughters. Don't be too harsh on yourself. She will be fine.

  2. This is so sweet! It definitely makes me miss my mom!!